President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is being careful not to use military methods in the fight against corruption in the country.
While citing his first coming as a military head of state in 1984, he noted that in a democracy, strong evidence had to be provided before allegations cases could be prosecuted successfully in courts.
Buhari spoke on Wednesday during a town hall meeting aired on NTA and monitored by our correspondent.
The moderator had asked the President to address the allegation that only members of the opposition parties were being hounded in the corruption fight.
He said, “I think that is not a fair criticism because it is not backed by facts. I don’t think that there is anybody that is being pointed out as corrupt in the last dispensation that we looked the other way.
“I think I can best illustrate this with my experience when I came in 1984. We arrested the president and the vice president, governors and ministers and put them in detention. And we said that they were guilty until they proved their innocence. We put committees of investigations based on geo-political zones and they were all investigated.
“So, I decided to come now and I have to be careful. People are not just arrested like that. But when they hold positions, if they make a wrong declaration of the number of houses they have in Europe, America and Asia and they did not mention the companies that they have floated, and the contract they gave out. If eventually uncovered, they are first in court.”
The President, who had difficulty getting the questions, was asked by the moderator what he was doing about allegations against members of his cabinet.
She cited the case of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who had yet to be tried despite his dismissal for alleged corruption, and a petition by a non-governmental organisation to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against the Minister for Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola.
“I have to be careful. But if anybody, the public should help us. If there are strong allegations and people have bank accounts, names of companies looted, contracts awarded, then we take them before the courts through the EFCC and the ICPC and we have to trust the system and allow them to complete their investigations.
If we just take people as we did during the military era and we locked them up, this system – multiparty democracy system – does not allow that. If you accuse anybody, you have to provide evidence in court for him to be prosecuted. If there are strong allegations, the government may decide to ask people to go, like the former secretary to the government that you mentioned,” Buhari added.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said the case of Lawal was before the EFCC and a directive had been issued for his trial.
He noted that all cases involving members of the cabinet referred to the EFCC would receive attention.